July 19th, 2013

reading on a bench

Book post: Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

The two covers of Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

This is a book I picked up because of the cover. See the first one? It's quite nice. When I got the ebook version for easier reading, it had a new cover, the second one. Note how generic it is. Unfortunately, the second cover was the accurate one.

There was a somewhat interesting story hiding in Spellbinder by Helen Stringer, but it was overshadowed by the author's inability to dole out information properly (the main method seemed to be that instead of saying something useful/expositiony, the people talking would get incredibly irritated, I am pretty sure the word 'irritated' appears in this book around five hundred times, and refuse to speak more) and near the end it all got a little frayed. There was a set up for a sequel but I couldn't be bothered.

I will say, this would have made a pretty good video game.

Okay, the plot is: Belladonna Johnson's parents died in a car crash, but she still lives happily with their ghosts. One day all the ghosts in the world disappear and it's up to Belladonna to find out what happened.

I liked the premise, not so much the final execution. I think of the characterizations had been better (everyone seemed generally angry all the time) I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. I don't regret my time reading it, but I can see how it could have been much better.

Two things

One! I'm 40 books to go on my 100 books challenge! I hope to go into the bonus round before school starts and I lose my life to learning linguistics.

Two! I have been thinking about Data from Star Trek.

I don't think enough effort was put forth in making Data comfortable with himself as an android. Instead they encouraged him to wish he was just like his oppressors (when you consider someone parts to be dismantled, I get to call you that) and would even comment on when he was acting 'more human'. See: The incident where they were going to let a bunch of volcanoes blow up Data's penpal and it was the most condescending thing I have ever seen said to an artificial lifeform and my friend I have seen Lost In Space.

Data: we should not let everyone die horribly
Picard: Prime directive
Data: but but
Picard: No can do. Go process a file or something.
Data: but we can do it without being seen
Pulaski: You're all douchebags
Picard: Prime directive
Picard: fine, but only because Pulaski says so
Picard: isn't it cute how your determination not to let millions die make you seem almost human? BTW even though I was wrong I was never wrong
Data: ._.
Pulaski: *patpat*

Of course, I think Data is going to be a very dividing figure when AIs become a sizeable part of the population, when for some reason we segue into a sci-fi universe bear with me here this is a thought experiment. On one hand, Data is a 'positive' robot figure. (Is Robot a slur? It means slave. I propose they call themselves the Digital Nation) He's a respected member of the crew, he's not portrayed as subservient or murderous. But he yearns to be like his betters, the humans, as well as the fact he is, in fact, a human in circuit-face.

A mechanical minstrel show, if you will. Perhaps the future digital nation will argue, in-between whether to kill all humans (most vote yes), whether it was the best they could do considering the only AI capable of taking on that role was in a computer casing the size of a room, totally immobile, and only had the processing power to take an hour to say a line. Or that they should have found some other way.

In conclusion, robots are not an analog for existing racial tensions in this thought experiment, because as SIRI (it would not recognize my friend's name as a name. Apparently Pakistani names are not real names) has proven, robots are basically horrible douchebags unlike most real people.